Due process will always be followed for licence revocation – GNBA

… says broadcasters will have recourse to courts

While broadcasters risk losing their licences if their productions breach broadcast regulations, there will be avenues open to them for redress. One such avenue will be the courts where arbitration can determine who is on the right side of the law.

This is according to Leslie Sobers, Chairman of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA). Stating that the GNBA has compiled a list of broadcasters who have been in breach of the regulations, Sobers said while GNBA will sanction them, this will only be done with due process.

Former GNBA Chairperson, Bibi Shadick is now the Opposition’s representative on the GNBA Board

“Revocation of licences, suspension of licences, removing them from the spectrum altogether and then there is a provision for a $200,000 fine and imprisonment of six months. Those are the options open to us for infringement,” he said.

“Of course all of this is not going to be done capriciously or without due consideration. There must be due process and persons will have the opportunity to make representations and even appeal any decision,” the former Magistrate emphasised.

With that in mind, Sobers stated that a broadcaster who feels wronged by an action taken by the GNBA is free to approach the high court and seek redress from the decision of the Board.

“And then we go there and examine the facts and the law and see whether we acted wrong or whether we were justified in our action to take them away.”

On Monday last, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo received recommendations from Sobers during a formal handing over ceremony. New broadcast regulations are currently being formulated and upon completion of the new regulations, they will be laid in the National Assembly.

When asked, Nagamootoo said the regulations will guide the operations and decisions made by the GNBA. According to the Prime Minister who is also the Minister of Information, he had consulted with the GNBA on drafting a subsidiary law for the regulations for the broadcasting spectrum in Guyana.

For his part, Sobers when asked by Guyana Times said the GNBA has for years been compiling regulations. He stated that when the previous Board came to an end, it was working on recommendations to present to the Prime Minister for broadcast regulations.

“That Board came to an end and this new Board was put in place and that advice was not complete. So this Board was approached by the Prime Minister who is the subject Minister and asked to review the advice that was given and to decide whether we want to expand.”

Sobers also listed some of the ways broadcasters can fall afoul of the regulations. These include “racial incitement, vilification of religion, the corruption of public morals, the quality of broadcasting from a technical point of view, the advertising of alcoholic beverages and tobacco products at a time when children are more likely to be viewing or listening, disparaging references to women and racial epithets.”

Shadick sworn in

Meanwhile, former People’s Progressive Party (PPP) parliamentarian, Bibi Shaddick was sworn in as a Board member for GNBA on Friday by the Prime Minister. Shaddick is a former chairperson of the GNBA and was chosen by the Opposition because of her familiarity with the authority.

However, Shaddick’s appointment was the source of contention after the Opposition had submitted her as a candidate, because of delays. These delays were ostensibly because Nagamootoo, the Minister of Information, had to get the signature of Minister Harmon on documents paving the way for her appointment.

The GNBA’s Board is now made up of Sobers, Shaddick, Dr Rovin Deodat, Shaharazad Khan, Jocelyn Josiah, Aretha Campbell and Joel Edmonds. After becoming operational on February 1, 2017, this Board is expected to serve for two years.

The previous Board of Directors comprised Leonard Craig, Anthony Vieira, Vic Insanally, Abiola Wong-Inniss, Jocelyn Josiah and Ameena Gafoor. Craig resigned on December 16, 2016, after a public fall out with other Board members.